Let us not think too deeply about this one. Kim Jong-un did a photo shoot on a horse.
The North Korean dictator rode the white steed through snowy fields, galloping between dusted trees, pausing for an aw-shucks-I’m-on-a-horse smile at the camera. His servants in the state media said on Wednesday that his eyes “were full of noble glitters.”
While Mr. Kim has no shortage of obviously posed propaganda photos, “world leaders on horseback” has been a very special genre at least since Vladimir Putin’s famous bare-chested entry in 2009. This doesn’t come along every day.
The geopolitical impact of the news was limited. Unless, that is, you trust the North Korean state media, which called Mr. Kim’s horseback ride up Mount Baekdu “a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution.”
Mount Baekdu is considered a sacred mountain laden with symbolism, the mythical birthplace of the Koreans. A volcano that straddles the Chinese and North Korean border — the Chinese call it Changbaishan — it is a central setting for North Korean propaganda, a place where soldiers are sent on pilgrimages to swear loyalty to their leader. North Korea insists that Mr. Kim’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, was born in a log cabin there, despite proof that he was born elsewhere.
In the past, Mr. Kim has visited Mount Baekdu before making major decisions, giving rise to speculation that this latest trek could portend a shift in policy toward the United States. An attempt to revive denuclearization talks between the two countries broke down this month.
“Having witnessed the great moments of his thinking atop Mount Paektu, all the officials accompanying him were convinced with overflowing emotion and joy that there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution,” reported the North Korean state news agency, which spells Baekdu that way.
Anyway, here’s Mr. Kim riding through a forest.
Though Mr. Kim chose not to go full Putin, keeping his torso covered with a parka in the cold, he is part of a somewhat exclusive club of current world leaders to have been photographed on a horse. (A much less majestic horseback photo of Mr. Kim from 2012 suggests that he has grown into the role.)
That club includes Justin Trudeau of Canada, which you maybe could have guessed. Yep, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, saddled up. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey fell off a horse in 2003 but summoned the courage to hop back on one 14 years later. Other confirmed riders include Narendra Modi of India, Joko Widodo of Indonesia and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico.
To our knowledge, President Trump has not been photographed on a horse, though he did get near one recently. Of the Democratic hopefuls for president, Bernie Sanders appeared on a horse in a 1987 video, and Tulsi Gabbard was photographed on one for a New York Times article in August.